Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The Crap in Our Back Yard
These two pieces of crap sit behind the "Old Crack House". The windows are all broken and the plumbing and furnaces have been ripped out. The back doors are open or the boarding is busted out and kids play in them. They were built around 1915 or so as two woodstove houses by Leonard Volkenand, who lived in our place from 1904 until his death in 1937. That means they were heated with a stove upstairs and one downstairs. They were problem rentals for us when we bought the place and in really bad shape. When the owner died they were left to her daughter who inherited another 7 just like them. She evicted the tenants for humanitarian reasons (nobody should have to live with that many fleas) and has done nothing with the properties for the last 4 years. She hasn't paid the taxes either. Her daughter lives across the street and won't do anything about them. She won't even cut the grass. We would be happy to get these and demolish them and expand our back yard but we run into a problem. The county sold the tax liens to a bank in Florida. The liens total $12,000 and the cost to demolish these will be about $8000 and the two empty lots are worth maybe $6000 because they are too small to build on under the new zoning code.
There is a program that the city offers residents to acquire abandoned property and get the delinquent taxes forgiven. Taxes have to be two years in arrears for the property to qualify. Basically we would fill out an application form and deposit $1000 with the city. This is used to force a sheriff sale on the property. The first sale is for the taxes owed. If there is no sale it will be put up a second time with no minimum bid. If nobody buys it, the city acquires it and then gives it to us and keeps the $1000. If someone buys the property we get our deposit back. Since the liens keep getting sold to this bank in Florida, these properties taxes are no longer in arrears so we can't attempt to acquire the properties. So they will sit empty and vacant for another 5 years or until the city sends out the demolition crews to tear them down. They add that bill to the delinquent tax bill so the problem perpetuates itself until the bank realizes that it is sitting on a very expensive piece of crap that they will never be able to sell or collect on.
I mentioned this problem to our mayor last week. The information entered her right ear, ricocheted off a couple of brain cells and created a foggy glaze over her eyes. She looked in my direction and said "You need to talk to the county auditor." Now I'm willing to do that but my thought is "Yeah right, like my two crappy properties matter to the county auditor! Do you think he's going to make a call to the bank in Florida that got bilked by him for a couple hundred grand to recall $12,000 in liens?" She said that this is a county problem, not a city problem but the truth is that it IS a city problem because there are many other houses like these within city limits.
My experience in this town is that the city administration does not communicate with the county administration. I think it is a political party thing which is so stupid in this day and age because our governments are supposed to serve "We the people ..." and the people in the city of Dayton are getting served poorly as a result of our elected city leaders not being willing to work with county elected leaders because they aren't members of the same political party, even though it would be the right thing to do.
I'm pretty certain that if the right person investigates this, they will find at least 50 or even more properties about the city in a similar situation. At least nine being owned by the above mentioned lady. If the person investigating would happen to work for the city and would approach the county auditor about this problem then these bad property liens could be swapped out for good ones that have more recent delinquent taxes. This would free these real crap properties up to be acquired by residents who care or land banked by the city planning department.
I have spoken with people in the planning department, the building inspection division and economic development since and will get the opportunity to present this at a neighborhood housing committee meeting that I attend next week.
I am so fed up with the way our city government doesn't work as effectively as I KNOW it can that I went to the board of elections and asked what I need to run for mayor next year. The gentleman behind the desk looked me square in the eye and said "A prayer."
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I think that you should run for Mayor! With all of the things that you have done for the city, such as fixing up the theatre, organizing the neighborhood wide rummage sale, etc. you have more than a "prayer" of succeeding. When are the next elections? Even if several years away, you can start expanding your support network now and give it plent of time to grow.
Chelle is right! Expand your support network now.
Stupid red tape,and everyone saying..."Not my job.." talk to someone else.
Our town has "management" like that.
Grr... red tape. What a joke. There should be a law against allowing a property to decay like that...
I can sympathize with you. We're trying to sell my mom's other house, with one of these should-be-condemned crap buildings across the street. Who wants to look out their window at that?
I think you would make an excellent mayor! I agree with Chelle! How long do I have to have an address in Dayton in order to vote for you?!
I HATE BEAURACRACY! This kind of stuff drives me nuts. And its not uncommon at all. Meanwhile, houses go rundown and encourage others to move out of the neighborhood, which only perpetuates the problem. Most politicians (especially the elected, rather than appointed ones) only listen if you have a few thousand to donate to their next campaign. # thousands donated = # of minutes of one day they'll spend on your problem. ugh.
Contact the Florida bank directly ... if you are right, they might realize their mistake and either sell it to you at a deep discount just to get rid of it or at least stop paying on it so that you can eventually purchase it.
I don't think its a political party thing since both the city and county commission are controlled by Democrats (and its pretty embarassing that they are, too, considering the Dems used to be more of an urban party).
In any case the comment about"That's a County Problem" is really, really inexecusable. The vacant property issue in Dayton is well known to political figures and to city government so something needs to be done, some streamlined organization and cooperation between the various players to get this kind of property torn down.
The real sad think is the people who own the vacant propertys get away with it and the costs of the issue end up being born by the taxpayer if the city has to tear them down (and the county taxpayer for the administrative costs of the County auditor and sheriff).
Thank you, Gary, for the great post. I have linked this here.
Thank you, Gary for the post. I saw it thanks to Kevin on DMM.
I say run for mayor! Perhaps a "prayer" is grounds enough for change.
I had the same situation (more or less) years ago. The liens expire after 10 years and must be renewed by the bank. For the small amount-12k - that you are dealing with, I doubt they will. The property owner may be waiting for the lien to expire, assuming no one wants to assume the lien on an property that is valued for less than the lien itself. A pretty good bet actually! However, acquiring these two properties will likely increase the value of your property, especially if you follow through with the demolition. My lawyer got around the lien by setting up a contract with the land owner that "leased" the property to me until the end of the lien. At that time, the land owner could acquire the land back only by re-imbursing me for the FULL amount of improvements made to the property (ain't gonna happen) or release the land to me at a "sale price" of $1. Obviously he was already paid for the land and was not going to spend the money to buy it back as my improvements would have made this cost prohibitive. You could probably salvage some pretty good materials from those two properties to off set your expenses. Perhaps a professional salvage outfit could give you an estimate on what those materials are worth to them. Let's say they offer 3-5 K, that goes a way to paying for the demolition. Plus the salvage work would will likely reduce the demolition costs to boot! I would offer the property owner the deal at approximately the value of the salvaged goods.
It's hard to see the older neighborhoods in decline and owned by people who don't give a crap. It's hard even in newer neighborhoods. I live outside of Phoenix in a 3 year old home. We had loser neighbors who defaulted on their loan but before they left they stripped the house of everything valueable including the air conditioners, all of the cabinetry and probably any copper they could find. It's a sad to know that people can be such uncaring pigs.
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